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Cultures of Diversity: Sexual Orientation in An Garda Síochána

Research undertaken by DCU academics has identified a leadership vacuum within the higher levels of An Garda Síochána in relation to the treatment of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) officers. The report Cultures of Diversity: Sexual Orientation in An Garda Síochána outlines qualitative research undertaken by Dr Mel Duffy (School of Nursing & Human Sciences) and Dr Vera Sheridan (School of Applied Language & Intercultural Studies) of the experience of 29 lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) Garda members.

All those interviewed expressed a strong a pride in serving as a police officer or a reserve, yet many felt themselves to be rendered invisible by a management policy akin to the now defunct US Army approach of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'. The report acknowledges that, while a number of initiatives have been undertaken by An Garda Síochána and many managers are supportive of LGB officers, the culture itself is slow to change and there is a lack of consistency in relation to diversity across the organisation. A lack of leadership or initiatives at management level to visibly support LGB officers led to participants remaining closeted and fearful of a lack of career progression if open about their sexual orientation.

Speaking after the launch of the report as part of the European Gay Police Association Conference in Dublin Castle, Dr Mel Duffy and Dr Vera Sheridan said,

"We are grateful to An Garda Síochána for their cooperation in carrying out this research and also wish to express our deepest thanks to all the people who participated in the research project. Irish society has changed dramatically in the last twenty years and these changes have also been accompanied by legislation which affects taken-for-granted institutional practices. It would, therefore, appear that strong leadership is needed for change in the institutional culture of An Garda Síochána as a whole-institution response to equality in the workplace. As a result, LGB Gardaí would not feel the need to endure half-lived, closeted lives, in the workplace, as they serve their communities."

Comments from participants in the research project demonstrate the pride that LGB members of An Garda Síochána take in their job and the role they play in Irish society:

'I'm a Garda. I'm proud to be a member of the force for so many reasons. I'm also comfortable being gay, both as a human being and also as a member of the force. It wasn't too long ago that Gardaí were responsible for arresting gay men and women and bringing them to 'justice'. Today, as an openly gay man, I serve with the men and women of the force day by day, night by night, and I try to be the best I can be, both to myself and the uniform I wear, the badge I swore upon and the honour of the position I hold.' [Esras]

'What do I like about the job? I am good at it. I like the role that the Guards play in general in society. Like the good that we do, the respect that we get and I like being in a position that I can actually do something positive.' [Gweneth]